Talking turkey: who’s gobbling up the market?

Production of the bird has grown eightfold over the past 50 years. As we show in a couple of charts, thanks for the boom can be given to the US, but the EU has also stepped up its game.

It’s early January, and you may well be fed up of hearing about turkey. But having had a peek at global production patterns, we thought you might want another helping of interesting stats.

Let’s start with the less surprising: the overwhelming champion in this category is the US. Turkeys are indigenous to North America and the meat has steadily gained importance in the local diet: the average American ate 7.5kg of it last year, a solid-sized fillet more than in 2012. The US also exports a fair amount of turkey, the bulk of which goes to Mexico (much of it in the form of ground meat). As a whole, the country produces nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. The EU comes in at second place as production in the bloc has boomed – helping to explain why world output has grown nearly eightfold over the past 50 years.

Interestingly, however, turkey population has not kept pace with output by value, having peaked in both the EU and the US in the late 1990s. Some of it can be explained by episodes of Asian flu, following which Mexico and China, large importers of the stuff, imposed restrictions on US turkey exports. But mostly it is because turkeys have got heftier – the weight of an average bird has more than doubled over the past century, to nearly 14kg. The biggest specimen – a 6-meter-high statue in Frazee, Minnesota – can be found in the Midwest. That state alone accounts for nearly 20 percent of all US production combined.